Is there a single collective noun for aunties and uncles? I’ve no idea but anyhow, them – my sons have three. And while I don’t think that’s a terrible number, I still don’t believe it’s enough.
On my partner’s side there’s Auntie Perfect and Uncle Manly. They are a dentist and a doctor, respectively (which is such a cliché it sounds like a joke, but it’s actually true). They have two sons of a similar age to mine and offer my kids an insight into what life would be like if Mummy and Daddy were better organised / richer / less annoyingly liberal (kind of like a very minor version of Blood Brothers, based not on actual wealth but on whether you read the Guardian or the Telegraph).
On my side there’s Uncle Mybrother. He has never worked, spends most of his time with my parents and is currently, due to the infrequency of our visits, offering my children an intermittent insight into what it’s like to relate to people who are “different”. This is frustrating. I’d obviously like my kids to get beyond the “woo, people with disabilities are cool!” stage and realise what a total sod my brother can be – not least because he’s my brother and has shit taste in music and reads rubbish newspapers but can nevertheless be quite funny once he gets going – but anyhow, perhaps that will happen in the end. In the meantime, I have to make do with irritating my children all by myself.
For a long time now my partner and I have thought about the option of getting in “honorary” aunties and uncles. By that I don’t mean people who are your mates and whom you persuade your kids to call Auntie This and Uncle That. They’re not proper aunties and uncles, not least because they’re too similar to you. Aunties and uncles need to offer something different. I don’t necessarily believe they should be role models – but they should be models of something or other. Hence over time I have been building up a list – if anyone who is on said list would like to come forward, feel free (but bring a book token for each of my boys):
Everything about Bill Bailey screams “perfect uncle” – he’s funny, he’s principled, he’s a musical whizz, plus he’d take the kids to CAMRA festivals when they were older to teach them ‘responsible drinking’ (actually, I have no idea about the latter – perhaps Bailey’s teetotal – but anyhow, he looks like he would). I’d even let him live with us (although this is perhaps because I can see myself becoming more and more like Bernard in Black Books, with Bailey running around as my little Manny, delivering wine lollies on demand – whenever he wasn’t on uncle duty, obvs).
As in Dot Cotton off Eastenders. I don’t mean to namedrop or anything, but she’s like my best mate. Except actually she isn’t. I met her once when I was at <dramatic voice> a low point in my life </dramatic voice> – resident of a psychiatric hospital, living on cucumber and smuggled-in Cointreau (this is me, by the way, not her). She wasn’t in a mental hospital. She was just trying to have a quiet fag in a public waiting room and I decided, as you do, to tell her my entire life story. I think I half-thought I knew her and that she’d like me because hey, I’m not great, but I’m not exactly Nick Cotton.*As you can imagine I was as annoying as hell, and more annoying even than that, and she was lovely (as far as I can recall). She’s ace (and no, I didn’t imagine the whole thing. I could have, but I have a signed photograph, somewhere or other).
There’s the cooking, obviously. But anyone who watched The Restaurant will know that there’s something very paternal and caring about our Raymond – he’s firm but fair (apart from in the final series, when he let those total knobs who could only do cocktails win – but we’d take that up with him later, once he’d taught our sons conversational French and the art of making a good souffé)
Yeah, I know – she’d totally be “the bad auntie”, the one about whom, when she was in the midst of her “bad” phases, we didn’t even talk. But I like her. She’d serve to balance out the model provided by Auntie Perfect. Plus she is someone who’s talented and successful who’d nevertheless manage to make Mummy look really well-balanced and sorted by comparison. She’d quite possibly introduce our sons to terrible things but I imagine someone’s gotta do it sooner or later – and I reckon she’d accomplish this in gloriously squalid style.
Because my kids would want at least one person who was exceptionally cool. Only they wouldn’t think Jarvis was cool, they’d just think he was old. But I’d think he was cool. And I quite fancy him, as does my partner. So that would be okay.
That, in essence, is my auntie and uncle wish list. Needless to say, my sons would be ideal nephews (apart from when it comes to writing thank-you notes – but does Courtney Love care about thank-you notes? I think not).
* ‘ello ma! I think it’s actually illegal to mention Nick Cotton without adding that.